THE NEWBERG REPORT — NOVEMBER 8, 2007
In 1993, Baseball America ranked Matt Walbeck as the Cubs’ number eight prospect. In 1994, BA ranked him as the Twins’ number four prospect.
The publication has given the 38-year-old, who accrued 11 big league seasons, much more love since his playing days came to an end.
After finishing his career as a backup catcher for Detroit in 2003, Walbeck was named manager of the Tigers’ Low A affiliate, the West Michigan Whitecaps. His club promptly won the Midwest League championship in 2004. The Whitecaps made the playoffs again in 2005, losing in the second round. They then won another league title in 2006, after posting a sick 89-48 regular season record. Promoted to manage AA Erie in 2007, Walbeck produced an 81-59 record and won a division championship.
BA called Walbeck the top managerial prospect in the Midwest League in both 2005 and 2006, and he was named Eastern League Manager of the Year in 2007.
And now he’s back in the big leagues, hired Wednesday to become the Rangers’ third base coach, catching instructor, and spring training coordinator, filling the vacancy left in each role by the departure of Don Wakamatsu to Oakland.
I hated to see Wakamatsu go, but it was a move that made sense for him, and faced with having to replace him, I love the idea of bringing in a winner. Walbeck has proven that he’s that.
Paramount among his responsibilities will be the tutoring of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, assuming he remains behind the plate, not to mention a high-ceiling crop of catcher prospects headed by Taylor Teagarden, Max Ramirez, and Cristian Santana — assuming he’s around long enough to see all of them get to the big leagues. Lots of people expect that Walbeck will manage in the big leagues one day, and maybe not in the too-distant future.
Walbeck got the job after Texas interviewed him, former Oakland coach Brad Fischer, and former Rangers catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. for the final spot on Ron Washington’s coaching staff. The Rangers also reached out to Jerry Narron, but he declined interest.
As Rangers manager, Narron missed having Gerald Laird on his club by a year. Whether Walbeck will have the chance to work with Laird is questionable. He’s obviously a possibility to be traded, with the most prevalent speculation centering on Boston, who is reportedly interested in the first-time arbitration-eligible. Just as the 22-year-old Saltalamacchia might make Laird (who turns 28 next week) a luxury whose trade value is greater than his value to the Rangers, 24-year-old Jacoby Ellsbury has made 28-year-old center fielder Coco Crisp expendable in Boston, and the rumors have already proliferated that there could be a match between the Rangers, who need a center fielder, and the Red Sox.
Texas has reportedly reopened discussions with Ian Kinsler’s representatives about the possibility of a long-term deal with the second baseman that would extend through 2012, covering his arbitration years and first year of free agency eligibility. Similar to deals the club struck with Michael Young and Hank Blalock at around the same stages of their careers, it would give the Rangers added cost certainty for the next five years (and possibly an overall discount) and give Kinsler a foundation of long-term security, not to mention a raise up front.
Yes, a number of teams are reportedly showing interest in Blalock. No, writes Fox Sports columnist Ken Rosenthal, the Rangers aren’t nearly as interested in a Blalock trade.
Righthander Akinori Otsuka has resumed throwing, so far without incident.
Contrary to what Baseball America reported a couple weeks ago, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus reports that the Rangers did not have the choice between Elvis Andrus and outfielder Jordan Schafer in the Mark Teixeira trade. According to Goldstein, the Braves refused to make Schafer available.
There are 10 candidates for Arizona Fall League Pitcher of the Year. Rangers lefthander Matt Harrison (4-0, 1.50 in five starts), who also came over in the Teixeira trade, is one of them.
Multiple national writers are suggesting that lefthander Ron Mahay is going to be the most highly sought middle reliever in free agency this winter, likely to land a three-year deal that could be worth as much as $12 million.
He’s a Type B free agent, meaning the Braves will get a supplemental first-round pick if they offer him arbitration and lose him to another club.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Japanese player drawing the most attention right now may not be outfielder Kosuke Fukudome but 32-year-old righthander Hiroki Kuroda, who like Fukudome is a free agent and won’t require a posting bid (or draft pick compensation). Texas has been linked to both.
First baseman Emerson Frostad (.273/.429/.818) has homered twice in Team Canada’s first four games of World Cup play.
The Rangers have brought Rich Rice back to serve as Senior Director of Baseball Media Relations. Rice, who worked under John Blake and then Gregg Elkin in the media relations department from 2001 to 2005, spent the last two years as Colorado’s assistant director of communications and public relations.
Cleveland released righthander Matt Miller.
You should read Jason Cole’s three-part interview with Rangers minor league hitting coordinator Mike Boulanger. You’ll learn a lot.
One note from the interview that I hadn’t seen anywhere else: an enlarged spleen was the reason for the serious viral infection that prompted Texas to shut third baseman Johnny Whittleman down early in Fall Instructs and send him home. Whittleman has been on antibiotics for several weeks and should be fine for spring training.
On the Alex Rodriguez front: "Let’s Go Mets!"
The Rangers have promoted Frisco manager Dave Anderson to minor league field coordinator, a position that involves the synchronization of all facets of instruction in the organization’s farm system, from spring training through the season and Fall Instructs. As part of the job, Anderson will assist Rangers director of player development Scott Servais in managing minor league player movement and will also serve as the system’s infield coordinator.
Texas also named minor league catching coordinator Damon Berryhill the club’s new manager at Bakersfield, replacing Carlos Subero, who left to take over as manager of the White Sox’s AA Birmingham affiliate.
Berryhill caught for the Cubs from 1987 through 1991. Servais caught for the Cubs from 1995 through 1998. Nestled in between was Matt Walbeck, who debuted with Chicago in 1993 before being moved to Minnesota in a trade following the season.
Berryhill, Servais, and Walbeck were never big league teammates, but all three are now rising stars together in a big league organization.
P.S. BA has just named Walbeck their Minor
League Manager of the Year for 2007.